WASHINGTON – The following is an excerpt from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's testimony before the Senate Armed Services committees, May 7, 2004:
SEN. JOHN WARNER, R-Va.: I have had the privilege of being associated with and, more importantly, learning from the men and women of the armed forces for close to 60 years of my life, and I can say that the facts that I now have from a number of sources represent to me as serious an issue of military misconduct as I have ever observed.
These reports could also seriously affect this country's relationships with other nations, the conduct of the war against terrorism, and place in jeopardy the men and women of the armed forces wherever they are serving in the world.
This mistreatment of prisoners represents an appalling and totally unacceptable breach of military regulations and conduct.
Most significant, the replaying of these images day after day throughout the Middle East and indeed the world has the potential to undermine the substantial gains — emphasize the substantial gains — toward the goal of peace and freedom in various operation areas of the world, most particularly Iraq, and the substantial sacrifice by our forces, those of our allies, in the war on terror.
Let me be as clear as one senator can be: This is not the way for anyone who wears the uniform of the United States of America to conduct themselves.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-Mich.: The abuses that were committed against prisoners in U.S. custody at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq dishonored our military and our nation and they made the prospects for success in Iraq even more difficult than they already are.
Our troops are less secure and our nation is less secure because these depraved and despicable actions will fuel the hatred and the fury of those who oppose us.
General Taguba's investigation, as reported, paints an alarming picture of abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners. It has enraged people here at home and throughout the civilized world.
Humiliating and sexually abusing prisoners has nothing to do with the effective internment or interrogation of prisoners. In fact, such actions are counterproductive to those goals.
As we seek to bring stability and democracy to Iraq and to fight terrorism globally, our greatest asset as a nation is the moral values that we stand for. Those values have been compromised.
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD H. RUMSFELD: In recent days there has been a good deal of discussion about who bears responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib. These events occurred on my watch. As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility.
It's my obligation to evaluate what happened, to make sure that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice, and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn't happen again.
I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn't, and that was wrong.
So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation. It was inconsistent with the teachings of the military, to the men and women of the armed forces. And it was certainly fundamentally un-American.
GEN. RICHARD B. MYERS: The situation is nothing less than tragic. The Iraqi people are trying to build a free and open society and I regret they saw such a fragrant violation of the very principles that are the cornerstone of such a society.
I'm also terribly saddened at the hundreds of thousands of service men and women who are serving or who have served so honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere, what have their reputation tarnished and their accomplishments diminished by those few who don't uphold our military's values. I know our service men and women are all suffering unfairly with a collective sense of shame over what has happened.
Their credibility will be restored, day by day, as they interact with the Iraqi people. And I'm confident that our dedicated service men and women will continue to prove worthy of the trust and respect of our nation and of the world.
LEVIN: Secretary Rumsfeld, would you agree that people who authorized or suggested or prompted the conduct depicted in the pictures that we've seen as well, as those who carried out those abuses, must be held accountable? That anybody who authorized, knew about, prompted, suggested in the intelligence community or otherwise, that conduct must be held accountable? That's my very direct question to you.
RUMSFELD: The pictures I've seen depict conduct, behavior that is so brutal and so cruel and so inhumane that anyone engaged in it or involved in it would have to be brought to justice.
LEVIN: Would that include anybody who suggested it, prompted it, hinted at it, directly or indirectly? I just want to know how far up this chain you're going to go. Are you going to limit this to people who perpetrated it? Or are we going to get to the people who may have suggested it or...
RUMSFELD: That is exactly why the investigation was initiated, that is why it's being brought forward, and we'll find what their conclusions are. And I'm sure they will make recommendations with respect to prosecutions.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: I'm gravely concerned that many Americans will have the same impulse as I did when I saw this picture, and that's to turn away from them. And we risk losing public support for this conflict. As Americans turned away from the Vietnam War, they may turn away from this one unless this issue is quickly resolved with full disclosure immediately.
With all due respect to investigations ongoing and panels being appointed, the American people deserve immediate and full disclosure of all relevant information so that we can be assured and comforted that something that we never believed could happen will never happen again.
MCCAIN: What were the instructions to the guards?
RUMSFELD: That is what the investigation that I have indicated has been undertaken is determining.
MCCAIN: Mr. Secretary, that's a very simple, straightforward question.
RUMSFELD: Well, the — as the chief of staff of the Army can tell you, the guards are trained to guard people. They're not trained to interrogate, they're not — and their instructions are to, in the case of Iraq, adhere to the Geneva Convention.
The Geneva Conventions apply to all of the individuals there in one way or another. They apply to the prisoners of war, and they are written out and they're instructed and the people in the Army train them to that and the people in the Central Command have the responsibility of seeing that, in fact, their conduct is consistent with the Geneva Conventions.
The criminals in the same detention facility are handled under a different provision of the Geneva Convention — I believe it's the fourth and the prior one's the third.
MCCAIN: So the guards were instructed to treat the prisoners, under some kind of changing authority as I understand it, according to the Geneva Conventions?
SEN. ROBERT BYRD, D-W.Va.: Why was a report that described sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses by American soldiers left to languish on a shelf in the Pentagon unread by the top leadership until the media revealed it to the world?
Why wasn't Congress apprised of the findings of this report from the Defense Department instead of from CBS News?
Mr. Secretary, it was President Truman who was said to have displayed the famous sign on his desk: The buck stops here. I served with President Truman. He was an honorable man. He did not shirk his responsibility.
I see a very different pattern in this administration. I see arrogance and a disdain for Congress. I see misplaced bravado and an unwillingness to admit mistakes. I see finger-pointing and excuses.
Given the catastrophic impact that this scandal has had on the world community, how can the United States ever repair its credibility?
How are we supposed to convince not only the Iraqi people, but also the rest of the world that America is indeed a liberator, and not a conqueror, not an arrogant power? Is the presidential apology to the king of Jordan sufficient? I ask you that question.
RUMSFELD: Senator, the facts are somewhat different than that. The story was broken by the Central Command, by the United States Department of Defense, in Baghdad. General Kimmitt stood up in January and announced that there were allegations of abuses and that they were being investigated. He then briefed reporters. And I think it was March 20 — there's a timeline up here. By March 20, he went back out again and said that these had been filed.
The idea that this is a story that was broken by the media is simply not the fact. This was presented by the Central Command to the world so that they would be aware of the fact that these have been filed.
What was not known is that a classified report with photographs would be given to the press before it arrived in the Pentagon.
RUMSFELD: I think that what we knew from the beginning, since Sept. 11, is that we had three issues with respect to people that were detained.
One issue was to get them off the street, so they can't kill again more innocent men, women and children, and keep them off. A second was the question of criminal prosecution for wrongdoing. And the third was to interrogate and see if additional information could be found that could prevent future terrorist acts against our country or our forces or our friends and allies.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, R-Maine: I think that rather than calling CBS and asking for a delay in the airing of the pictures, it would have been far better if you, Mr. Secretary, with all respect, had come forward and told the world about these pictures and of your personal determination — a determination I know you have — to set matters right and to hold those responsible accountable.
RUMSFELD: Well, Senator Collins, I wish I had done that. I said that in my remarks.
I wish I knew — and we've got to find a better way to do it. But I wish I knew how you reach down into a criminal investigation when it is not just a criminal investigation, but it turns out to be something that is radioactive, something that has strategic impact in the world. And we don't have those procedures. They've never been designed.
We're functioning in a — with peacetime restraints, with legal requirements in a wartime situation, in the information age, where people are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and then passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Secretary Rumsfeld, people are calling for your resignation. Somebody is drafting an article of impeachment against you right now. I've got my own view about people who want to call for your resignation before you speak, but I'll leave that to myself.
Do you have the ability, in your opinion, to come to Capitol Hill and carry the message and carry the water for the Department of Defense? Do you believe, based on all things that have happened and that will happen, that you're able to carry out your duties in a bipartisan manner? And what do you say to those people who are calling for your resignation?
RUMSFELD: Well, it's a fair question. Certainly since this firestorm has been raging, it's a question that I've given a lot of thought to.
The key question for me is the one you pose, and that is whether or not I can be effective. We've got tough tasks ahead. The people in the department, military and civilian, are doing enormously important work here, in countries all over the world and the issue is: Can I be effective in assisting them in their important tasks?
Needless to say, if I felt I could not be effective, I'd resign in a minute. I would not resign simply because people try to make a political issue out of it.
SEN. ELIZABETH DOLE, R-N.C.: Fundamental to our success in the global war on terror is winning the hearts and minds of freedom-loving people who were held captive by a violent few. We are not company to that violent element and we denounce anyone who is.
Secretary Rumsfeld, the damage already done cannot be swept away but it can be repaired.
You touched briefly on your plans for a way ahead. Could you go into more detail on this plan? Will it require more or different troops, quicker processing of detainees, more Iraqi police involvement? You mentioned reparations. Could you please provide more details?
RUMSFELD: I don't think I used the word reparations. I think — I hope — I used the word compensation for the detainees who were cruelly treated. And I am told that we have — the lawyers have looked into it and we believe there are authorities where we can do that and it is my intention to see that we do do it, because it is the right thing.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-Ga.: Now, one obvious judgment is that the 800th M.P. Brigade was totally dysfunctional, from Brigadier General Karpinski on down, with few exceptions. And on the surface, you could portray the 800th M.P. Brigade as a reserve unit with poor leadership and poor training.
However, the abuse of prisoners is not merely a failure of an M.P. brigade. It's a failure of the chain of command, Mr. Secretary.
And what I want to leave here today is, is knowing and taking comfort in the fact that, as Senator Graham said, we're not going to just prosecute somebody with one stripe on their sleeve or four stripes on their sleeve; that you're going to carry this thing to whatever extent is necessary to ensure that there's no good old boy system within the United States Army.
And irrespective of whether they've got a stripe on their sleeve or four stars on their shoulder, that we're going to get to the bottom of this and we're going to make sure that corrective action is taken, and where necessary criminal action is taken against anybody involved in the particular acts or in the shielding of this and the failure or negligence on their part of keeping this information from you in a quick and swift manner.
RUMSFELD: I agree with everything you've said. And there's no question but that the investigations have to go forward. They have to be respectful of people's rights but they have to be handled in manner that reflects the gravity of the situation. And it does not matter one whit where the responsibility falls. It falls where it does.
SEN. MARK PRYOR, D-Ark.: Mr. Secretary, I must tell you that we do not like these type of surprises here in the Congress. And I don't want to sound glib in asking this question, but let me ask: We know the photographs are coming out, but do you anticipate anything else coming out in a relation to this story that we need to know about today?
RUMSFELD: Well, I'm certain there will be. You've got six investigations going on. You can be absolutely certain that these investigations will discover things, as investigations do, and that they'll elevate other individuals for prosecution and criminal matters. And you can be certain that there's going to be more coming out.